Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Nonviolent Inmates Are Serving Life Without Parole

Oklahoma's Prisons are beyond capacity and face federal sanctions

Only 3 clemency candidates nominated in the past 3 years

  William Wood jr. is a military veteran, former minister, and 60 years old. He's been in prison for 10 years so far and has 189 years left to serve on his sentence.  He has had no disciplinary complaints while in prison.

  About 11 years ago, William was found to be in possession of controlled drug substances and raw materials. He was arrested & convicted. He has no other violent crimes record. William Wood jr. did have a drug addiction.
William Wood jr. would
like to resume his ministry,
if granted clemency
 “I'll go back to preaching,” Wood told the board, “knowing I can't get everyone off the drugs because I was right there with them.” 
 The board, voting 4-1, recommended Wood's sentence be commuted to 20 years. Vice Chairman Patricia High was the no vote.
  The clemency board has not seen any sentence commuted in the past 3 years. Despite our overcrowded prisons and some of the harshest sentencing laws, Oklahoma's lawmakers have not shown any sign of significant support for reforming our nonviolent crimes mandatory sentencing. Would Rev. Wood have been in this mess had he not had an addiction? Probably not.

  Prisons are for people we believe are too dangerous to be in society.

 William and 2 others are the only inmates being presented to Governor Fallin for her potential grant of clemency.
  Donnie Daniel is 53 and terminally ill. Hepatitis is a common concern in the prison system.  He was sentenced to life without parole nearly 20 years ago for selling an illegal drug. His request is to have his sentenced reduced to a life sentence, so that he can eventually have another hearing and potentially get parole, so he can see his grandchildren before he dies.
  Michael Tippin is serving a life sentence for producing a drug without a license to do so.  He is 55 and has been incarcerated since 2000.

  Several others would have been eligible but the reformed guidelines that the State Pardon & Parole Board adopted was struck down by Attorney General Scott Pruitt, as 'improper'. The board also faced discipline for violating the state open meetings act. Four of the members were only recently appointed. Some find it ironic that even the parole board has trouble navigating the state code; yet they stand in judgment of others who run afoul of the law in nonviolent violations and get life sentences for it.
  Senator Rick Brinkley was set to become the leader of the Oklahoma Senate when it was discovered that he likely committed dozens of separate and repeated crimes involving well over a million dollars. Will the likeable senator's demise lead to the legislature revisiting the policies of sentencing all nonviolent offenders? Rick seems to have started his troubles when he gave in to another addiction which has become a scourge on Oklahoma; the casino gambling problem.
  For the sake of our cash-strapped state budget, we can only hope and pray for reforms, soon!

David Van Risseghem

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Every politician fears being labeled "soft on crime"

1 comment :

  1. Thanks David. I'm one of those who's finally gotten tired of this. If you are only harming yourself, I don't want to pay for it. It's not rehabbing anyone by putting someone in prison. There is another model to look at: but there is a new sheriff in There is money to be made in taking property and for profit prisons.